This year’s draft will be one of the least memorable in the recent history of the Winnipeg Football Club due to the team’s limited number of selections.
The Blue Bombers are without picks in the first and third rounds by virtue of the trade that secured Zach Collaros from the Toronto Argonauts last October. Though a Grey Cup victory validated the trade, there’s no denying it will diminish Winnipeg’s draft haul this year.
General manager Kyle Walters will have the opportunity to select a player at the end of the second-round — eighteenth overall — and he’ll have little margin for error. As he won’t pick again until the end of the fourth round, his first pick may be his only opportunity to add an impact player.
The Blue Bombers’ biggest area of need is at the defensive back position where free agents Derek Jones and Jeff Hecht weren’t retained in free agency. Though it’s likely the team will keep veteran Brandon Alexander as the starter at safety, having better national depth in the secondary could allow for extra ratio flexibility and help on special teams.
Noah Hallett (McMaster) and Stavros Katsantonis (UBC) jump out as two potential candidates who should be available near the end of the second round. Hallett is a more athletic version of Nick, his older brother — the team’s seventh-round selection a year ago — while Katsantonis is one of the biggest ball-hawks in U Sports history.
The top defensive back available on draft day will be Marc-Antoine Dequoy (Montreal), though it’s expected he’ll be off the board in the first round. The six-foot-three defender recently signed with the Green Bay Packers, which means his selection comes with added risk for the team that picks him.
Mid-round considerations at defensive back should include Kurtis Gray (Waterloo), Matt McConnell (Saint Mary’s), and Nolan Putt (McMaster).
Winnipeg could also look to the line of scrimmage with its second round selection. The club needs increased depth behind defensive tackle Jake Thomas, while reinforcing the offensive line on draft day is always a shrewd decision.
Cameron Lawson (Queen’s) and Sam Acheampong (Wilfrid Laurier) are the two top interior defensive linemen outside of Michael Hoecht (Brown) who recently signed with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. Either could be available at eighteenth overall and would provide solid depth behind Thomas alongside 2019 third-round pick Connor Griffiths.
On the offensive line, there are many U Sports products who fall into the second-tier of this year’s blockers. Mattland Riley (Saskatchewan), Jakub Szott (McMaster), Coulter Woodmansey (Guelph), Dylan Giffen (Western), and Andrew Becker (Regina) are all potential options for the team in the second round.
Riley and Szott may be the best fit for a team that covets versatility along the line of scrimmage. Both players have experience at centre and guard and fit Winnipeg’s mold as powerful interior blockers.
Receiver is another position at which the Blue Bombers could look to add depth after Malik Richards, last year’s fifth-round pick of out Mount Allison, joined the Eskimos. Tyler Ternowski (Waterloo) and Kian Schaffer-Baker (Guelph) are intriguing options in the second round, while local product Macho Bockru (Manitoba) may be available in the fourth or fifth round.
A dark horse option at eighteenth overall could be quarterback Nathan Rourke (Ohio). The native of Oakville, Ont. went unselected in the NFL draft and has yet to sign as an undrafted free agent. Some scouts feel Rourke is ready to be a CFL backup right away and it’s no secret that the Bombers lack depth under centre.
Rourke posted elite production over three years with the Bobcats as a passer (7,457 yards and 60 touchdowns, 20 interceptions) and as a rusher (2,634 yards, 49 touchdowns). Though it’s likely the team goes elsewhere in the second round, Rourke is an intriguing option for a Winnipeg team that lost dual-threat pivot Chris Streveler to the NFL this season.
The 2020 CFL draft won’t be as lucrative for Winnipeg as last year’s event that saw the club hold two of the top five picks. Even so, it remains a good opportunity for the team to enhance its Canadian depth ahead of the 2020 season.